For Samer Issawi: a poem by Susan Abulhawa

Samer Issawi, on intermittent hunger strike for more than 200 days, appears at a Jerusalem courthouse on 19 February.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

Picture of Apartheid’s outlaw

Crooked white teeth Adam’s Apple

And an angled jaw


A beautiful face

Knowing smile

Gentle eyes

And masculine grace


O’ Native son, my brother


Your eyes have sunk in darkness’ pain

Sleepless nights crawl on your skin

And daylight climbs the

Links of your rusted prison chain


Religion made a mistake

So your body shrinks

And shadows trample your skin

While a thousand senators quake


Jerusalem screams

In your hallowed belly

She chokes on your mother’s tears

And shows us her tired dreams


As your body excavates death

The ruin of nations is

Carved in your palm

And a sorrowful flag holds its breath


You carry your broken frame

Through the decay of health

And death, devastated by your life

Hangs its head in shame


You are the prince

Where the Jasmine sings

The bougainvillea prance

And the tyrants wince


Palestine rises on the days

They siphon from your veins

Crutches to steady her gait

While we stir from our daze


O’ Native son, my brother


Fly over this country your wish

And pour the Adan from your wings

Let the church bells chime from your smile

And the walls fall by your kiss


Our tears will rain and the wadis flood

Until another thousand years

Have sunk in Jerusalem’s mud


We will harvest the olives with your name

And your heart will forever stake our claim


Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestseller Mornings in Jenin and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine.